By Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Universities in North Texas produce half a billion dollars in research annually. Yet, the state primarily funds institutions of higher education based on enrollment, and the state is having trouble meeting funding needs to match the region’s exploding research growth.
Those universities have amassed more than $150 million in philanthropic dollars for research, and for more than a year, those dollars have remained unspent, awaiting matching funding from the Texas Legislature as part of the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP).
North Texas legislators told more than 80 leaders representing regional businesses, nonprofits, and Dallas Region higher education institutions that both issues stand in the way of the Dallas Region continuing its momentum and growth in higher education. The group gathered at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s second Education to Employment Outlook breakfast series on Sept. 10 to discuss higher education funding, policy, and the key issues for the upcoming legislative session. The 86th Texas Legislative Session begins Jan. 8, 2019.
“We need to recognize one size doesn’t fit all and to allow flexibility in that funding formula,” said event speaker Texas State Sen. Kelly Hancock, who serves as the co-chair of the Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education Formula Funding. “The status quo will never put us on a path to becoming a higher education force.”
Hancock added, “The goals and objectives [of institutions] are very different. One of the reasons UT Southwestern is penalized is because the current funding formula is based on enrollment growth. UT Southwestern isn’t looking for enrollment – they’re looking to lead the nation in research.”
Proponents for diversifying Texas higher education funding say that while schools such as UT Southwestern derive some benefit from enrollment-based funding, extra consideration should be directed to research-driven schools, where the primary focus rests on breakthroughs in medical science.
Aside from advocating for additional funding for rapidly growing schools in the region, the DRC and its education partners are also working with legislators to increasing funding to schools with enrollments with higher concentrations of first-generation and low-income students. Many institutions of higher education in the Dallas Region fit both profiles.
Both Hancock and Texas State Rep. Linda Koop of Dallas participated in the panel during the event. Koop addressed a question about TRIP funding.
“When you have philanthropists giving you tens of millions of dollars and they’re wanting to match, you know that all the money is there from the philanthropists. I think there’s $154 million sitting, waiting for its match [at the state]. Either get rid of the program, and say we’re not going to have it anymore – which I don’t think we all want – or fund the program.”
Koop added that if Dallas County continues along its current education path – aligning school districts, community colleges, and institutions of higher education with the business community – it can serve as a model for other regions in Texas.
“I think that you, in this room, have a perfect opportunity to do this, through the Dallas Regional Chamber,” she added.
Those comments by Koop and Hancock followed a presentation by DRC Managing Director of Higher Education & Workforce Elizabeth Caudill, who described the scope and impact of higher education in the Dallas Region.
“Our region has the most students enrolled in post-secondary education as well as the highest annual degree completion of any region in Texas,” she said. “The higher education community looks a lot like the business community in North Texas – outperforming other regions and growing rapidly.”
Among the stats she shared:
“Not only are we producing the most students in Texas, and preparing them at elite institutions… the DFW region is retaining students to live and work,” Caudill said. “The Dallas Region has the sixth highest retention rate in the United States for retaining college graduates with 72 percent of them staying in the region.”
High talent retention rates indicate the region’s universities are providing North Texas employers with the talent they need, she added.
Those interested in helping increase legislative awareness for the need to create greater flexibility in the State of Texas’ Higher Ed funding formula and/or to fund the state’s TRIP program should contact Caudill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Education to Employment Outlook series is presented by Texas Instruments and ONCOR. The higher education funding event was additionally sponsored by State Farm, Dallas County Community College District, and University of Texas at Arlington/University Crossroads.
The DRC is an active supporter and leader in the region for higher education issues and public policy.
By Avi Kahn
What would one of the top leaders of a multi-billion-dollar construction company (me) have in common with the students of Thomas C. Marsh Middle School in Dallas Independent School District?
Plenty, as it turns out.
I came to this realization while serving as Principal For A Day at Marsh, where, according to state data, 90 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged and more than half are learning English.
Even though I grew up in what would be considered an upper-middle-class household, there were seven of us kids. Our father is a lawyer who owned his own firm. But as with all employee-owned businesses, money sometimes got tight, and we had to compromise.
Everyone had to pitch in which strengthened our work ethic at a young age. I saw that same trait in the students at Marsh.
After meeting Martha Bujanda – Marsh’s principal – I immediately appreciated what she’s doing. Martha’s energy is contagious. The school buzzes with activity, and it seems like two people are waiting to speak with her at any given time.
Still, she took the time to share her day and thoughts with me while I was Principal For A Day, explaining that many of her students come from large families living in single-parent households of limited means. Discipline might not be consistent in their homes. So, she’s seeing to it that students are assigned tasks, giving them a sense of belonging and a shared purpose. She’s bringing in teachers who can motivate students, and introducing constructive work to their days. Most importantly, Principal Martha Bujanda is bringing optimism, a sense of urgency, and hope to kids who need it most.
After spending a day at Marsh, I felt tired, yet exhilarated. I also saw our cultural overlaps, and was determined to help Martha and her students as much as possible.
I’ve made it a point to speak to Marsh students on Career Day, and I’ve invited my colleagues at Hilti to do the same. Our Plano office recently hosted female Marsh students, allowing them to shadow our female engineers. Our goal is to give them firsthand knowledge that women are earning good, meaningful livelihoods in science-related fields. We want to empower them and highlight the fact that with continued hard work and focus, the sky is the limit. We also want to have a little fun and are planning to host the entire school at a Dallas Stars game this November.
Hilti has committed to making lasting impacts at Marsh. We’ve “adopted” a Marsh student, and we’re helping to mentor her, to prepare her for a professional future. We hope to take even more under our wings soon. We’re working to be a regular fixture at the school for Girls in Engineering Day, Career Day and other such events.
Where is this leading? What are we trying to accomplish with Marsh?
We know students can benefit from our corporate culture, which emphasizes both caring and performance, and we know that Martha will be a great partner along the way. We also know that it’s important for Hilti to help others where we can, when we can. We know that by exposing these students to our culture of excellence, we become part of something bigger than ourselves. We know that Dallas’ corporate citizens need to contribute more than just tax money. We need to put skin in the game, to personally become part of the city’s future success. That’s what we’re doing at Marsh.
And what more can anyone ask for, in the work of fulfilling our callings? I’d encourage other corporate leaders follow us in the Principal For A Day program, which is an initiative of the Dallas Regional Chamber. They can get involved by contacting the DRC’s staff at email@example.com. Orientation sessions are set for Sept. 25 and Oct. 4. This year, PFAD is Oct. 9. As more and more business professionals realize just how rewarding this program can be, we expect slots to fill up quickly. Registration is requested by Oct. 3. (Click here to get your username and password to register.)
Dallas ISD is moving professionals like Martha to places like Marsh, as part of a larger initiative to spark renewed excitement and engagement in public education. Efforts like these help improve overall academic performance and are made possible by continuing to invest in our children and their future through community support of school funding.
There will be a time when we look back upon where we spent our time and treasure in this life. Dallas ISD is giving us worthwhile opportunities to invest them in the future of our city.
Avi Kahn is president and CEO of Hilti North America, which employs 3,600 professionals and is part of a global provider of products, services and software for construction professionals.
Principal For A Day is a project of the Dallas Independent School District, in partnership with the Dallas Regional Chamber and Capital One Bank, that brings community leaders into schools across the district. Get your username and password to register.
By Dave Moore, Staff Writer
A crowd of about 300 gathered at the DRC’s State of Higher Education Luncheon, where they heard University of North Texas System Chancellor Lesa Roe describe her experience growing up as a first-generation college graduate, and the parallels between her former career as an electrical engineer at NASA and higher education.
“My mom was a switchboard operator,” said Roe, who took the helm at the UNT System last fall, overseeing the system’s operations, including its 10,000 employees. “My dad was in the military, and when he got out, he worked on airplanes and was a groundskeeper at a Veterans’ Administration hospital. I worked for as long as I can remember, pulling corn in my grandfather’s field in hot Florida – lord if that’s not a motivator – and PawPaw didn’t pay.”
In speaking to a sellout ballroom at the Westin Galleria, Roe said her father encouraged her to pursue a degree. Her mother, however, discouraged her from pursing higher education because she didn’t want her to be disappointed.
“I take that lesson with me today, because sometimes, your culture is so thick, so pervasive, that you don’t believe that you can get out of it,” Roe said. “You think that people who succeed are special, and you’re not. And you’re afraid to step out of the box, until you step out of it. The big part of me talking to all of you today, is to let our kids know that here in Dallas-Fort Worth, that they can step out of [the box]; they can create a new story for themselves.”
Roe said her story strongly applies to the lower economic population in Dallas County, to whom higher education might seem a distant dream.
“I also know what it’s like to have people tell you that you can’t, and what it’s like to decide for yourself,” she said. “If you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right. So for me, never define yourself as a victim, prove them wrong and keep moving. My college education equipped me for this.”
Roe, who worked for 30 years at NASA and helped create the International Space Station, said there are many commonalities between higher education and space exploration.
“The bulk of my professional experience has been in aeronautics and space, but I’m now applying that knowledge to higher education,” she said. “While my new colleagues might feel I’ve landed in this industry from another planet, there really are commonalities.”
Following Roe’s address, The Dallas Morning News business columnist Cheryl Hall moderated a roundtable discussion with UT-Dallas President Dr. Richard Benson, Dallas County Community College District Chancellor Dr. Joe May and Texas Rep. John Zerwas. The discussion primarily addressed the origins of those institutions of higher education, and the challenges and successes they’ve experienced.
“One of the biggest challenges is, how are we going to achieve our goal of 60 by 30 – getting 60 percent of the population some sort of post-secondary credential by 2030?” asked May, referring to the state’s higher education plan that aims to educate more than half a million individuals – ages 25-34 – with a certificate or degree by 2030.
“We’ve got to grow the degrees by 40,000,” he said. “How do we get people in the door, and how do we get people out, not just with any degree, but aligned with the job market, in the North Texas area? That means reaching deeper into the (population) pool.”
In discussing DCCCD’s origins and track record, May said his district is comprised of 14 instructional locations that serve 165,000 students per year, through credit and non-credit. He added that non-credit student enrollment has increased by 16,000. In 53 years, the district has educated more than 3 million students, May said.
Benson said one of the biggest challenges facing UTD is managing growth to keep up with the Dallas Region’s growing economy.
“This area is booming,” he said. “Seems like there’s always another company moving to the metroplex. Growth is difficult. We’ve probably doubled the student body in the last 14 or 15 years. That comes with substantial infrastructure needs.”
Along those lines, Benson said, one state initiative that’s helped his university, as well as the University of Texas-Arlington and the University of North Texas, is the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP).
“TRIP… has been a wonderful program,” he said. “If our universities can attract philanthropic investment and research, the state was willing to put in a match, up to one-to-one.”
The initiative, launched by former State Rep. Dan Branch, has led to roughly $80 million in additional state funding, matching the $100 million UTD has attracted, Benson said. That program, however, has taken a hit, due to budget constraints.
“Right now, our university has about $32 million in the queue, and we’d like to have $32 million, in the next session,” said Benson, directing his comment to Rep. Zerwas, who chairs the Texas House Appropriations Committee.
In reply, Zerwas said, “Higher education is oftentimes that pot of money we go to when we don’t have enough money. The research fund that Dr. Benson mentioned is just that. I said, ‘mea culpa’ on that. I and my counterpart, Sen. Nelson, though, didn’t want to do that. But we were faced with a flat budget. No new money.”
Zerwas said the state’s budget faces growing expenses from Medicaid, and Health and Human Services, which are approaching expenditure levels of public education.
“We put together a budget that’s balanced,” he said. “We can’t print the money like they do in Washington.”
Zerwas acknowledged that the state’s future rests in educating its population.
“We’re a state that has been described as a ‘Texas Miracle,’” he said. “We have a lot of oil and gas. And we have a strong dependency on it, and we’ve done well. But we’ve got to recognize that what the future holds for the state is the resource of its educated workforce. That’s what’s going to attract people to build their businesses and to raise their families.”
The 2018 State of Higher Education was presented by UNT System. Silver sponsors were Microsoft Corporation, The University of Texas at Arlington and The University of Texas at Dallas.
by Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Buoyed by signs of growing public support and increased voter turnout, more than 100 education advocates in Texas gathered recently to build a strategy to bolster public education.
Taking part in the March 21 Dallas Regional Chamber’s Texas Public School Finance Convening, the group agreed that the State of Texas’ share of funding for public education has continued to shrink – down 7 percentage points since 2008 – and that the trend should be reversed.
Among those speaking was former Texas State House Public Education Committee Chair Jimmie Don Aycock, who described the ongoing predicament facing Texas’ public schools; they are ranked toward the middle of the pack academically, but public-school funding ranks 47th or 48th.
“Are we willing to stay average, with low-income jobs, or do you want Texas to do better?” he asked. “[The education finance problem] is not simple, or they would have solved it in 1836.”
Two recent metrics are giving education and business leaders hope for a solution:
Fellow speaker Jennifer Esterline, Executive Director of Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (TEGAC), said key to achieving public education finance reform will be strengthening the coalition of business and education leaders, and sending a clear signal to legislators.
“Let’s get focused around a couple key messages that everyone can agree upon,” Esterline said. “Because one of the hardest things about school finance, is that… people start getting back into their silos.”
Key will be finding a solution that elevates all public schools students, rather than resolving singular issues, such as recapturing revenue from districts with rapidly rising land values, or increasing spending for rural districts, she said.
Along those lines, the group agreed, an important task will be informing voters that Texas’ public schools haven’t reaped the full benefit of Texas’ rapidly growing property tax base.
Statewide, taxable real estate values have increased substantially and, consequently, school district tax collections have been increasing $1 to $2 billion annually over the past five years, according to an analysis by Taxparency Texas. Yet while the State of Texas’ budget has benefited decidedly, public school districts have seen modest funding increases, said Missy Bender, President of Plano ISD’s Board of Trustees and leader of Taxparency Texas. The state has redirected the majority of these collections to other general fund items and also provided franchise tax relief for Texas businesses.
Aside from informing voters, another key will be efforts in increasing their participation, Fidelity Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs Scott Orr said to attendees of the convening.
“One of my passions right now is getting our employees out to vote,” said Orr, a Board Member with the Dallas Regional Chamber. “One of the things that businesses need to be doing now is stressing the importance of voting to our employees. We’ve seen some significant success.”
One analysis shows that voter turnout increased by nearly 20 percent statewide, comparing the March 2010 primary participation with the same period this year.
“That’s huge,” Orr said. “How much of that is due to efforts to get more people out there? It’s hard to say. But I do know it’s important for our legislators to know our community is voting. Even though we’re not telling them how to vote… At Fidelity, I say, ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re hard right or hard left, no matter where you are, you should be out voting.’”
The Dallas Regional Chamber and other major chambers, the North Texas Commission and numerous employers – such as Fidelity – began more intensive efforts to build voter turnout and awareness since the summer of 2017.
Orr said the work is paying off.
“I think we’re being heard,” he said. “I’ve been approached by legislators saying, ‘Hey, this is a problem. We want to work toward a solution.’ If we get this message out, on this problem of how we finance our public schools, there could be some folks out there who may have some ideas that could be new ideas.”
DRC Senior Vice President of Public Policy Priscilla Camacho stressed the sense of urgency in both the business and educational communities.
“There is a business case to be made for school finance reform, and we need to do it this year,” she said. “We don’t need to wait another two years, four years, or six years. We need to do it this session. And we can. If we put all of our heads together… we can come up with the solution to this problem.”
To learn more about the Dallas Regional Chamber’s public policy advocacy, click here.
by Dave Moore, Staff Writer
It’s the little things – the willingness to have a beer with a mentor, internships, a follow-up phone-call or even having a work-product to show off a job candidate’s skills – that Dallas area employers say they’re missing when they fill jobs locally. Of course, the newer things – experience in project management, the ability to use industry-related data and an understanding of the workings of their industries – that hiring managers desire as well.
Those were points of consensus from a broad swath of industry leaders in professional services – from the logistics, construction, consulting and real estate sectors – who attended the Dallas Regional Chamber Industry Convening Dec. 6.
“The construction market has had a huge uptick, especially in the nation’s fourth-largest economy, which is DFW,” said Thomas Crowther, Managing Partner of The Crowther Group, whose clients include Toyota, Wal-Mart and Target. “In fourth quarter of 2016, there was over $11 billion worth of construction services happening in this market,” he said.
Yet that increase in activity has coincided with a large number of baby boomer retirements, leaving the industry in need of individuals who can perform at that level. Crowther said his firm is working with high schools and lower-level schools to establish a replacement workforce.
A key element in making the transition will be workers’ willingness to communicate with each other, he said.
“It would help us for those two types of personalities (retiring baby boomers and millennials) to co-exist better, if there were more social skills,” he said. “It’s almost as if you’re working with your grandfather, or your dad. And so, sometimes, being involved with that organization on campus, or going to have a beer, is the conversation you’re going to have with tenured skillsman to learn the craft.”
Nearly all companies need workers with project-management skills, said Ty Beasley, Office Managing Partner at RSM US’s Dallas office – an audit, tax and consulting service that service mid-market clients.
“Project-management training… is industry agnostic,” said Beasley. “It is skillset agnostic. There is a project involved in everything. There’s a process between a start and a finish. Project management skills are becoming more critical in today’s environment.”
Beasley said that when a firm hires RSM, they’re seeking expertise or skills that aren’t available in-house.
KPMG’s Taylor McKamy, JLL’s Sarah Boehland and EY’s Anneliese Schumacher said their operations are in immediate need of individuals who are familiar with the tools of their trade. In JLL’s case, it’s ARGUS real estate software; in the case of KPMG, students should take courses in management information systems, which would help them understand databases, the use of big data and data analytics. EY is looking for dual majors – in both accounting, and in information systems/computer science/artificial intelligence.
“The other area that hasn’t been mentioned (in the discussion) is the need for underrepresented minority talent,” said Schumacher. “And really working with high schools, grammar schools, to increase the pool of underrepresented minorities, and students studying accounting and technology. That’s a big issue.”
The ability to adapt to changes in technology and the increased availability of data is important to Texas Central, Texas’ bullet train.
Arbuckle said in his former job at AT&T, his role evolved from analog technology, to the digital space over 30 years’ time; the learning curves of today’s workers must be much quicker, he said.
Though they cited needs for industry-specific skills and knowledge repeatedly, panelists said incoming hires still lack knowledge on the basics of creating subject and signature lines for emails, basic writing skills, and the ability to interact with people face-to-face. Employers at the panel also especially valued job candidates who were motivated enough to teach themselves skills, and who followed through after their initial contacts.
Panelists Mark Edgar of Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Jarlin Jia of Co.media agreed that job candidates should get as much experience in speaking and communicating as they can, through organizations such as via Toastmasters International.
“Working in a communications firm, we see that a lot of people have degrees in communications, who are still missing the mark in communications,” said Jason Meyer, of Cooksey Communications. “But we’re having to adjust the way we communicate internally, because there is less face-to-face communication, and there is more email. You can’t get tone.”
Meyer’s work at Cooksey has included representing the 23,000-square-acre mixed-use AllianceTexas development, which employs nearly 50,000 people in fields from logistics to financial services.
“From day one, the only thing that’s been holding back projects like AllianceTexas, and our region, is workforce development issues,” he said. Meyer said the development has collaborated with Workforce Solutions to create the Alliance Opportunity Center to help fill those jobs with professionals with matching skills.
“One of the key things I’ve been working on from a public relations standpoint is, ‘How do we get the word out? How do we make sure people know these jobs are available?’”
The DRC industry convening, which was sponsored by Bank of America, is part of its strategic mission to help educational institutions in the region to better prepare students to be workforce ready for the North Texas economy. It represented the fourth and final meeting of the 2017 series.
The panel held a roundtable discussion in front of an audience of representatives from North Texas learning institutions, including Dallas, Grand Prairie and Richardson ISDs, the University of Phoenix, UNT-Dallas, Southern Methodist University, Dallas Baptist University, the University of Dallas, Boy Scouts of America, Workforce Solutions of Greater Dallas, the Oak Cliff Family YMCA, and Dallas Community College District.
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